Be Still, My Soul

“Sometimes we’ll sing a soft hymn or two, sometimes a chant or even a lullaby,” says Cindy Paul, director of the New Thresholds Chorale. “Each song is carefully chosen for its comforting ambience and uplifting message.”

The New Thresholds Chorale is inspired by the Threshold Choir International movement (, and an offshoot of three previous choirs Cindy founded and directed at Lakeside over the past several years. She and the singers who work with her are all focused on one goal: to bring comfort through song to those who are very sick or on the threshold between this world and the next.

“In my last threshold group, we had a lot of very moving experiences with some of the people we sang for,” she continued. “I remember singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to some near-comatose patients in a local nursing home and all of us being shocked and delighted when one patient opened his eyes for the first time in months, and smiled at us.”

Usually, though, the group’s singing is not received with any fireworks. “This isn’t a concert… we try hard to stay away from that kind of thing. It’s more like we’re creating an atmosphere that’s conducive to healing, or at least to help ease a troubled soul.”

Cindy went on to describe her last choir, which sang around Lakeside nursing homes and clinics several years ago. “We went to some of these places faithfully week after week. The residents in the nursing homes would sing familiar songs with us, or just listen. Or sometimes, fall asleep. But we all knew they appreciated what we were trying to do.”

“I didn’t like the performance vibe of singing for people who were not too sick, just bored and lonely; we couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that we were entertaining the troops, and that just wasn’t the point. So what this new group has talked about doing is getting rid of any hint that we’re performing by only singing for very ill people. Singing to provide the listener with comfort, rather than singing for any reaction whatsoever.

“The music can be sung in unison or with one- or two-part harmony, and it’s always without any accompaniment. A cappella singing sounds easy, but it really isn’t, especially when you’re doing harmony. Everybody’s pitch has to be very good, you have to decide in advance things like when to breathe and interpretation, and you have to have excellent breath control. Funnily enough, it takes more control to sing well softly than loudly.”

“Since we just recently started up again, at this point we’re simply learning a collection of songs that seem appropriate. Once we get them under our belt, we’ll be ready to start going to local homes, hospitals and clinics and splitting up into groups of no more than three singers per room.”

“There’s no charge,” she added. “This is an act of pure service on the part of everyone involved. And it’s not a good fit for every singer. Our singers aren’t faint-hearted.”

Do these types of singing groups do more than just swoop into a room, sing a few calming songs, and then swoop out?

“We’ll customize every visit, according to what seems right for the patient, or what the family or caregiver requests. Some of us may want to hang around for a while after we sing. If the patient is able to communicate with us, we’ll just try to help them on their journey a little by talking with them, listening to them, or praying with them, if they want. You know… do what you’d do for someone you care about in that situation– bring them a lot of love, a bit of heart’s ease.”


(Sung to the famous and haunting melody “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius)

Be still, my soul:

Thy God doth undertake
to guide the future

As He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence

Let nothing shake;
All now mysterious

Shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul:

The waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Cindy Paul is music director at the Lake Chapala Baptist Church. Contact the New Thresholds Chorale at

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

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